First, a big thank you to Paul Anthony for inviting me to be part of his Writing Process blog tour. Paul has been a good friend since I was part of the Espionage blog tour and I am very pleased to be part of another tour with him.
As part of the Writing Process blog tour, we are sharing with our readers and other authors how we craft our stories and what makes us different than the other authors in our genre. It’s a great way for readers to get to know more about us and our books, as well as understand what goes into the creation of the stories they enjoy reading.
What am I working on?
In January, I released my debut novel, Agency Rules – Never an Easy Day at the Office. This was the first, and foundational, book of the Agency Rules series that digs deep into the shadowy world of terrorism, duplicitous political games and institutional power grabs in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The whole series is tied up in helping people around the world understand that what they see on the nightly news is nothing close to what is the actual ground reality.
Right now, I am working on the second book in the series, which should be released in late November, right in time for Christmas shoppers. While the first book covered the 1990s and where the terrorism problem started, this book will take the reader into the days after the War on Terror started. It will give you a bird’s eye look into the country that has been both the front-line state and the hardest hit in retaliation to it’s involvement in the global war.
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
Living in a country like Pakistan, you see the enemy up close and personal, but you don’t know who is the real enemy. Our political parties hold a special place for the terrorist/extremist groups, sections of our army and intelligence services have supported them at different times in the past, and regular citizens are unclear as to where the line is actually drawn on what defines the enemy.
I don’t just write about it, I actually live it every day. I have seen the suicide training camps with my own eyes, smelled the aftermath of a car bomb and witnessed the gruesomeness of an enemy that does not follow any rules of engagement. After which, I go back home and struggle with the reasons and rationale of why someone would do this, while reading journalistic accounts of “the problems of terrorism” from people who know nothing of the effects of living this way.
Why do I write what I do?
Part of my writing is a catharsis to cleanse the frustration and fear from my system. When you experience these things daily, your mind and body start to numb to the act and you do begin to wonder if you are standing on the wrong side of the fight. I never want to be on that side and the writing keeps me centered.
I think the part that drives me to write more than anything else is to tell the story of Pakistan’s citizens. We are not terrorists and all of us don’t espouse the values that are flashed across television screens or headlines in the morning newspaper. There is so much more to this people that the world doesn’t understand and that is where the entire story comes from. To a great extent, Pakistanis are just like any other country’s citizens, we have just been defamed more than anyone else.
Lastly, I think part of my motivation to write was to help end the demonization of Islam. The world is full of preachers and ministers that will turn phrases of a holy book to their benefit. I can recall from my childhood in the United States, watching preachers on television saying that God told them to blow up an abortion clinic or kill a doctor, but these people don’t speak for Christianity. Why do you automatically assume that the lunatics you see on television speak for Islam? There are more than 1 billion Muslims around the world – are they all terrorists? Radicals? Fanatics? Not at all! The minute minority that you see doing these things are just as representative of Islam as Terry Jones is of Christianity.
You don’t see the headlines about the great things that Pakistanis do. You don’t see the media jumping to talk to the average Pakistani to get their view on the behavior of their government or their response to the terrorist/extremist threat in the country. You see the fanatics instead.
How would you feel if the least educated, most radical .00005% of your population became the narrative for the world to hear?
How does my writing process work?
My writing process is fairly interesting. I started the last book by visiting a number of sites that had served as terrorist training camps. The sheer awe and disgust at the scale of their preparation set my mind in motion. I started with a simple map of where I wanted to the story to go. These were the major events that needed to be worked into the plot. Once I had my major events, I started to create the characters that would be the storytellers. The thing that you will find when you read Agency Rules – Never an Easy Day at the Office is that very few of the characters are either black or white. All of my characters live in grey with a great deal of humanity in each. It’s hard to tell who is going to be where while you are reading the story and I think that makes it much more interesting. Whether they are in uniform or in politics, the loyalties are questionable throughout.
To get all of this right, I spent a great deal of time researching, reading everything I could get my hands on, from memos to newspapers. I watched every program, TV show and movie that was made about terrorism and this part of the world. This was all to understand how the world saw Pakistan. Then, I went out on the streets and talked to Pakistanis from all walks of life to get their point of view on the things that are/have happened in our country. This all crafted the characters, plot and built the storyline so that you can’t discern whether this is fiction or fact. Much of what you read in the Agency Rules series is backed up with actual history so it comes to life and helps the reader understand and identify (I hope) with the plight of the Pakistani on the street that is just trying to live their life.
In all, I think, and the reviews thus far, have echoed what I had hoped to achieve with Agency Rules. People are starting to understand that there is much more to Pakistan than they every thought. They are starting to question what they see on the nightly news and newspapers. It’s easy for a journalist to create a narrative, I didn’t create the narrative – I told the story of the people and the country.
Thank you again for taking the time to stop by and read about my writing process. I do hope that you will take the time to pickup a copy of Agency Rules and give it a read yourself. The world needs to understand that the enemy is not all of us, just the .00005% that have been brainwashed into believing their actions are actually justified in Allah’s eyes.